Last week, I found myself in a room full of strangers at what I believe was my 50-some-odd high school disunion -- the most dysfunctional function I’ve ever attended. I wandered in about 6:15, the buffet had started at 5:30 but I wasn’t in much of a hurry. I knew that a huge dose of reality was waiting for me, the reality I see in the mirror through that pupil behind the bag I’ve noticed when prying my eyes open to shave at 6:30. I’ve considered a face-lift but am afraid I’d end up looking like you-know-who (insert any name you please), without his wife’s money.
The menu wasn’t much, roast beef or baked chicken, some salad, potatoes and rolls. Things we would find easy to spear so as not to get any dribbles on our clothes. No gravy, thank goodness. It was old folks’ food designed to keep us healthy until the next major event in our lives, which could come at any time. We used to eat fried chicken. Not anymore. And the “menu” of life seems to be missing several other “items,” but we’re not going there.
The conversation around the tables was health care and who needed what and when the surgery was taking place. I felt healthy when I walked in but as the evening progressed my swagger became a stagger as I realized I looked pretty much like everyone else. And I was fairly sure who I was but had no idea about who the others were because the names on the tags were too small to see, even with my trusty Dollar Store 2.5 reading glasses. Picture a hundred or so seniors, still able to get around, trying to get close enough to one another to see a darn name tag and you get the idea.
Thank goodness pomade went out last year.
I found myself sitting with an accountant (who found himself to be the most interesting person he had ever known) and his wife, who looked like she had heard every story he’d ever told and was thankful he still went to work every day because he had become the most boring person she had ever known. He was a guest so I was relieved in knowing I didn’t have to know him. But he’s convinced that I’m convinced he is someone with whom a schmuck like me should appreciate spending time, so he keeps on talking about numbers and figures and whatever else it is they do. I got the feeling he drank a lot. “My wife and I are excellent skeet shooters!” he said. And I’m thinking: “You’d better be ‘Sport.’ From the looks she’s giving you she’s going to swing that barrel too far to the left one day, and bingo, you’ve shot your last skeet.” He got up to get a drink and I threw some roast beef on a roll and escaped to wander and wonder if there might be one living soul in that room I could recognize or anyone who could recognize me.
I found “Bubba,” the one person who actually looked somewhat as he had in school (he still had hair) and like a drowning man reaching for a life buoy, I latched on to this poor fellow. “Bubba, it’s me, Sonny!” He gave me the same look I give myself in the morning mirror like, “what happened to you?” Then he asked, “Seen anyone else from our class?” I had no idea. We exchanged niceties but I got the feeling we wouldn’t be teeing it up anytime soon. So, I wandered about a room full of fat, bald “uncles” and women who looked like “aunts.”
There was also the thought that remembering me might not be such a good thing, for if they did, would it be a good memory or one they had tried to forget until jarred by this encounter with a stranger? Also, it is indeed a strange thing to have to ask someone if they remember you, or being asked by others if you remember them. You hear and say, “yes,” but looks on faces tell a different story. We are not always remembered by someone whom we had placed at the top of our list -- and that just might be a good thing.
Sonny Harmon is an educator at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.